An emerging business support model in dental care — the dental support organization (DSO) — is opening up new avenues of oral care for Texans, particularly those who have been traditionally underserved in dental care. By providing Texas dentists with specialized business services such as administrative and billing support, facilities maintenance, purchasing and upkeep of business and dental equipment, dentists like me are freed up to focus on quality patient care without the headaches associated with running a solo practice, and to offer dental services to more individuals.
In addition to the accessible, affordable, and individualized care patients receive through DSO-supported offices, they are also able to benefit from the advanced technology solutions being introduced by other DSO-supported dentists. Often these technologies not only improve the patient experience, they also have been shown to improve clinical care efficiency.
Many offices supported by DSOs use digital radiography, a form of X-ray imaging in which sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Digital X-rays reduce radiation exposure to patients by up to 90% compared to traditional dental X-rays, significantly decreasing the risk of cancer. Digital X-rays also allow dentists to easily and quickly share patient information, are less costly than traditional systems, and are more environmentally friendly. The need to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure in medicine has been highly publicized and recognized by policymakers in recent years, and I’m glad to be able to do my part by using advanced digital systems.
DSO-supported practices like mine also offer the latest electronic health record (EHR) systems, which improve communication, allow dentists to consult with one another easily, and can help patients avoid unnecessary or repeated procedures when changing offices. As with their application in general medicine, EHR systems contribute to the provision of more efficient, safer, higher quality care.
Another example of a beneficial technology available more readily in DSO-supported offices is Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM), which produce diverse types of dental restorations the same day — opposed to conventional techniques that typically take about 10 business days — allowing patients to return to work, save money, and avoid multiple visits to the dentist’s office.
In sum, these technologies greatly enhance patients’ experiences and cut down on their office time; allow dentists to explain in greater detail patients’ conditions and treatments, thus improving dentist-patient communication; and lead to higher patient satisfaction.
The integration of new technologies such as these helps lower the cost of dental care. Technologies such as digital X-rays, EHR systems, and same-day dental restorations reduce costs by streamlining care and cutting out extraneous processes. In fact, DSO-supported dentists with access to computer-assisted technologies have seen drops of approximately 4% in average total combined laboratory and supply costs.
While new models of care tend to be scrutinized because they challenge the status quo, the DSO business model is one direction in dentistry that should wholeheartedly be embraced due to its provision of quality, lower cost and more individualized care that is good for patients and dentists alike.
Dr. Jacob Dent is a practicing dentist at Sugar Land Dental Group & Orthodontics in Sugar Land, Texas. Dr. Dent’s dental practice is supported by Pacific Dental Services.